the meal

Day 5 :: The Meal       

prompt from

randomly. it just happened. last night I cooked “The Meal” roasted whole chicken

the “meal” was on weekly rotation with hamburger gravy on mashed potatoes. franco american spaghetti with chopped, crisp bacon. ‘stringy meat’ pot roast (don’t forget a bay leaf) with carrots, peas and potatoes, followed by hash made out of the left overs. liver and onions. spaghetti sauce cooked all day. chicken soup with orzo or rice or homemade egg noodles always followed “the meal.” all meals paired with homemade bread and real butter, not margarine. never, ever margarine.

she had nine mouths to feed, nine tummies to fill. six growing boys with bottomless appetites and one picky daughter who didn’t like her food to touch. she could stretch a meal, add another plate or two to the table, another tomato or grated carrots to the sauce, another cup of stock or water to the soup.

i drift into food memories. mashed potatoes with steaming gravy, peas perfectly cooked and sometimes, carrots glazed with brown sugar. two chickens, side by side, browning in the oven, the smell of warmth and love and creativity and provision mingling with the noise and upheaval of so many kids jostling for a spot at the table. chocolate cake rising while we eat.

taste and smell have become sacramental senses wrapping me with bittersweet sacredness.

she no longer cooks. only “mush” and an occasional scrambled egg. her apartment doesn’t smell like the home of even recent memories. there are no garlic braids, no yeast, no fresh cut fruit smells. her spice drawer is empty, the olive oil might be rancid. her refrigerator is full of individual yogurts, bags of grapes and apples, carbonated juice bottles, and styrofoam boxes of leftover food from the dining room. her freezer is stacked with one scoop portions of rainbow sherbet and husks of bread in baggies.

the pin prick of grief comes with the realization that she isn’t aware of what is missing. i offered to cook “the meal” with her in her apartment. i’d bring the chicken, the rosemary, the butter.

she told me to get a costco chicken.

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